Tag Archives | Science Fiction

Frodo Shrugged

[cross-posted at facebook]

September 2nd is the day that Atlas Shrugged begins. (We’re shown Eddie Willers seeing the date on a gigantic calendar in the first chapter. Several other important events in the novel happen on that date as well.)

September 22nd is the day that Lord of the Rings “officially” begins. (In fact we’re shown a few scenes from the days of preparation leading up to Bilbo’s birthday party, but it’s become customary to say that LOTR begins on that date.)

LOTR and Atlas are similar in their subversion of expectations. [SPOILER ALERT for both books.] LOTR is about a quest concerning a magical object that brings the wearer great power; but the goal of the quest is not to obtain the object but to destroy it. The climax of Atlas involves the villains torturing their hero; but their goal is not to get him to submit to them, but rather to get him to agree to become their dictator.

In short, both books are about the refusal of power.

Both books also arguably owe a debt to Platos Republic. In both LOTR and the Republic, a ring that grants its wearer invisibility but tends to corrupt its wearer is used as a metaphor for political power. But Plato’s and Tolkien’s solutions are different; in Plato we’re told that only the wise, the philosopher-kings, can be trusted with the ring; but in Tolkien we’re told that no one can be trusted with it and that the best course is to destroy it – a much more anarchistic moral (appropriately enough for an author who wrote “My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy …. the most improper job of any man, even saints … is bossing other men”). Moreover, for Tolkien, if someone has to be trusted with the ring temporarily, it is safer in the hands of hobbits (corresponding to the craftsmen, the lowest and least trusted class in the Republic) rather than in those of wizards or kings.

As for the connection between Atlas and Plato’s Republic, I’ve written about that in Ed Younkins’ anthology Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged: A Philosophical and Literary Companion. Here’s the piece.

Ragnarok Lobster

[cross-posted at POT and Facebook]

What do Good Morning America, the Australian Outback, Mary Poppins, David Friedman, Lawrence of Arabia, and a balloon voyage to a lost colony of Vikings at the North Pole have in common? Get the answers in this video, as I take you on a journey BEYOND YOUR IMAGINATION!!!

Free-Market Radical Leftism: Czech It Out

[cross-posted at POT]

The next best thing to giving a libertarian talk in Prague is giving a libertarian talk to Prague. Although if Aristotle is right about the locus of causal action being in the recipient rather than the agent, perhaps this counts as a talk in Prague after all.

Pibijé: My Recipe, My Adventure

I discovered this recipe when I was journeying through the Eiglophian mountains of northern Cimmeria. Winter had come early, and the cold wind bit like a knife through my all-too-thin cloak. A red glow in the west told me that dusk would soon be upon me, and my chances of reaching my intended destination, the small mountain village of Sparnuota Mirtis, before nightfall were clearly going to be slim.

I looked about for a place of shelter among the steep and cragged rocks, and initially had little luck. But then fortune favoured me, or so it seemed, for by and by I glimpsed a dark cleft ahead, slightly to the left of the rather rudimentary gravel trail I had been following since the morning. Scrabbling over shattered granite, I found myself at the entrance to a small cave – a welcome spot of shelter for the night.

Welcome, at least, so long as it was unclaimed and uncontested; for I knew well that snow leopards haunted these heights, and I had no desire to face the fierce jaws and talons of one of those swift and powerful beasts. Lighting the elvenlight that had been gifted to me by Lady Fafine Valea at the gates of the faery palace of Sloc Boglach, back in what now seemed an eternity ago, I proceeded cautiously, but saw no signs of prior occupancy.

As I walked farther into the recesses of the cave, however, the walls began to assume the regular angles of masonry rather than the haphazard ruggedness of nature, and I began to suspect that this tunnel had been hewn not by the random violence of the mountain but by the craft of men. My suspicions were confirmed by what seemed to be a doorway at the very end of the cavern, marked with strange runes that ….

[1254 pages later]

… as I climbed hastily up the ladder, for below me I could hear the angry shrieks of the lizard men growing closer. Risking a glance behind me, I saw the entire vast underground city of Lai Koht Teel, still lit by the eerie pale lichen that graced the high-arched ceiling, begin to crumble to dust, its lacy towers cracking and splintering like ice in spring. At last I reached the promised Night Door, and vaulting upward through it I slammed the portal behind me. I found myself in another tunnel much like the one I had entered a year ago, though in this instance the door lay upon the floor rather than being built into the wall. Seeing a large boulder near the door, I not without great effort rolled it onto the door. Soon I could hear the threatening scraping of the lizard men’s claws beneath the door as they hissed in frustration, but they lacked the strength and leverage to dislodge the rock, and at length their sounds faded, as they no doubt returned to the ruins of the fair city that I had, partly through intention and partly through inadvertence, so utterly destroyed.

I made my way to the cave’s mouth and saw the dark forests of Nordheim below me in the morning light, stretching to a far and misty northern horizon, for I had emerged on the other side of the mountains. The gems I had gathered in the great Treasury had been dropped in my flight, so that the only wealth I was able to take away with me from my adventure was my memory of the fabulous meal of Pibijé on which I had dined with the High Priest and Priestess of Fahadalana on the terrace of their lofty stone temple, jutting out over the turbulent subterranean sea as leather-winged zenido birds wheeled cawing overhead. Fortunately, I had committed the recipe to memory, and I am happy to share it with you on my recipe blog today.

Pibijé recipe:

1. 2 slices of bread
2. Some jelly
3. Some peanut butter
4. Some regular butter (optional)
5. Some skulls of your enemies (optional)

Spread regular butter (optional) and peanut butter on one slice.
Spread jelly on the other.
Place the first slice, peanut butter side down, on top of the second slice, jelly side up.

Garnish with skulls of your enemies (optional).


Secrets of the Musketeers

[cross-posted at POT and Facebook]

Why is it called “The Three Musketeers” rather than “The Four Musketeers”? Was Alexandre Dumas really the author? Was Auguste Maquet the author? Was the novel based on real people and events? Was it based on a previous novel by somebody else? Were there any sequels or spinoffs? Do all the existing translations suck? Was Dumas racist against blacks? Was he black himself? Was d’Artagnan more of a villain than a hero? Did he fight Cyrano de Bergerac? Are the publishers of Dumas’s works guilty of literary fraud? And finally, and most importantly, is the “Three Musketeers” candy bar actually made out of musketeers? If these questions have got you tossing and turning all night – get fast, fast relief with this one weird video!

Why They Wrote Such Good Books

[cross-posted at POT and Facebook]

I’ve just finished up my seminar (the teaching portion, not the grading portion – oh, not remotely the grading portion!) on Nietzsche and Modern Literature, where along with various readings from Nietzsche we also read works by Thomas Mann, André Gide, D. H. Lawrence, and Ayn Rand. I created an “audiovisual companion” website for the course to illustrate the various people, places, and works of art and music that are discussed by all five authors; and I’m posting the link to it here in case my broader readership is also interested.

As many of my readers are likely to have a particular interest in Rand, I’ll note that the pages where I discuss Rand are Weeks 9-14. See the four “horse tamer” statues that Rand describes at the beginning of Part II of We the Living! Hear the “John Gray” song (misidentified by Michael Berliner) that pervaded the streets of Kira’s Petrograd! See the theatres that Kira attended with Andrei, and the restaurant where they ate! Hear clips from the Kálmán operetta that inspired her, and the swingtime version of Wagner’s “Evening Star” that Gail Wynand suffered through during his late-night walk through the streets of New York! See the real-life models for Leo Kovalensky, Essie Twomey, Ellsworth Toohey, Lois Cook, Lancelot Clokey, Dominique Francon, Henry Cameron, Ralston Holcombe, and Austen Heller – as well as the real-life models for the buildings of Roark and Cameron, the coffee shop where Peter says goodbye to Katie, and much much more!

And check out similar sights and sounds for the works of Mann (Weeks 1-4), Gide (Weeks 4-5), Lawrence (Weeks 5-9), and of course Nietzsche (passim).

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